APEC leaders: Intensify efforts for MSMEs, embrace digital economy

HELPING SMALL BUSINESSES. The 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member-economies called for more intensive efforts to help micro, small, and medium enterprises - which dominate the region and the Philippines - penetrate global value chains. Photo by Pat Nabong/Rappler

HELPING SMALL BUSINESSES. The 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member-economies called for more intensive efforts to help micro, small, and medium enterprises - which dominate the region and the Philippines - penetrate global value chains.

Photo by Pat Nabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member-economies called for more intensive efforts to help micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) penetrate global value chains.

The APEC leaders concluded their meeting in Manila on Thursday, November 19 by issuing the 23rd APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting Declaration titled Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World: A Vision for an Asia-Pacific Community. (READ: Making region MSME-friendly could be APEC 2015's success)

The APEC leaders reiterated their directives to the ministers: Implement actions laid out in the Philippine-initiated Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs and report progress by 2020.

The Boracay action plan aims to help the MSMEs access the global market through trade facilitation, e-commerce, financing, and institutional support.

The 21 APEC leaders also welcomed the APEC Iloilo Initiative: Growing Global MSMEs for Inclusive Development, and support the creation of the APEC MSME Marketplace to provide opportunities for business and strengthen collaboration with public and private organizations that will support their development.

"Throughout the year, representatives from all member economies held 229 meetings to advance our individual economies and the region at large. During this time, we have seen our locales lend their names to strategies that will help empower small and medium enterprises, among others, " Philippine President Benigno Aquino III told a press conference in Pasay City on Thursday, November 19.

"There is, for instance, the Boracay Action Agenda, which will help micro, small, and medium enterprises access the global and regional markets. Complementing this is the Cebu Action Plan (CAP), which will widen entrepreneurial access to financial markets. Among its other benefits will be lowering the cost of remittances," Aquino added.

The APEC 2015 Leaders’ Declaration statement also read, "we are mindful that despite the unprecedented economic growth that has lifted millions of people out of poverty, it continues to be a reality for millions of others in our region. We call for more intensive efforts for its reduction and eradication.”

In the Philippines, the economy has been growing for an average of 6.5% for the past 5 years, but the country continues to have high unemployment and underemployment rates.

Poverty incidence among Filipinos in the first semester of 2014 was estimated at 25.8%, according to the latest data of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), higher than the 24.6% recorded in the same period in 2013.

APEC 2015 chairman President Benigno S. Aquino III (6th from left) joins fellow APEC leaders (from left, front row): Republic of Chile President Michelle Bachelet; Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; Brunei Darussalam Prime Minister Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah; Commonwealth of Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull; People's Republic of China President Xi Jinping; Republic of Peru President Ollanta Humala; Socialist Republic of Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang; United States of America President Barack Obama; Kingdom of Thailand Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-Cha; and Chinese Taipei former Vice President Vincent Siew. (Back row, from left) Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung; Republic of Indonesia Vice President Jusuf Kalla; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; Republic of Korea President Park Geun-hye; Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak; United Mexican States President Enrique Peu00f1a Nieto; New Zealand Prime Minister John Key; Independent State of Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill; Russian Federation Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev; and Republic of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Photo by Rey Baniquet / Malacau00f1ang Photo Bureau

APEC 2015 chairman President Benigno S. Aquino III (6th from left) joins fellow APEC leaders (from left, front row): Republic of Chile President Michelle Bachelet; Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; Brunei Darussalam Prime Minister Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah; Commonwealth of Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull; People's Republic of China President Xi Jinping; Republic of Peru President Ollanta Humala; Socialist Republic of Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang; United States of America President Barack Obama; Kingdom of Thailand Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-Cha; and Chinese Taipei former Vice President Vincent Siew. (Back row, from left) Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung; Republic of Indonesia Vice President Jusuf Kalla; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; Republic of Korea President Park Geun-hye; Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak; United Mexican States President Enrique Peu00f1a Nieto; New Zealand Prime Minister John Key; Independent State of Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill; Russian Federation Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev; and Republic of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Photo by Rey Baniquet / Malacau00f1ang Photo Bureau

Financial inclusion

The leaders also declared financial integration that through moving toward more liberalized financial services and capital accounts, while maintaining adequate safeguards as well as increased access to finance for MSMEs and businesses in the supply chain, will foster greater trade and investment in the region.

The APEC leaders also said they recognize the importance of MSMEs’ access to finance as a key enabler of their expansion, internationalization, and productivity improvement. They also welcomed commitment made by the private sector and international finance organizations through the recently launched Financial Infrastructure Development Network under the CAP.

Resilience against disasters, financial crises, and other unexpected events were also underscored by the APEC leaders. "In addressing these challenges, we recognize the important role of public finance such as credit guarantee systems designed for MSME operational continuity and the importance of enhancing closer collaboration with relevant public and private sector institutions," the declaration read. 

Global value chain integration

Also, MSMEs – which account for about a third of the gross domestic product and represent 96% to 98% of all registered businesses – have a hard time penetrating global value chains as they continue to face financial and non-financial barriers.

"We underscore the significance of the participation of MSMEs in global commerce to inclusive growth and will take action to facilitate such participation," the statement of 21 APEC leaders read.